Following the recipe for duck confit, I'm here filling a friend's request for the way we make Cassoulet.
The Pork Skin. Yes. The first ingredient is something that's rarely found in a cookbook, but that to me is in every way the foundation. You line the ovengoing pot (I use an oval Staub or Le Creuset--oval shouldn't matter, but makes my heart go pat pat) with the skin, after first taking most of the fat off. I conceive of the inclusion of the skin as plain magic--or more prosaically, I think that it provides protection to what's within, that its high collagen would provide body to the liquids, and, needless to say, it provides a great complexity of flavour.
The Rest. Scatter in some 3 cups of flageolet, rinsed. a few bay leaves. Pepper corns. One each dried hot and mild pepper. A twig of rosemary. A sprig or two of thyme. 3 whole echalottes grises. 6-8 garlic cloves. We add 4 tablespoons of homemade tomato paste (Bertolli's Conserva), though sometimes we don't--. Then add a fair piece of pork shoulder, cut into two inch cubes. Cover generously in stock (if homemade and salt free; I usually use duck stock with some fat on top) or water or a mix of both. Braise in a 130C/Gas Mark 1/275F oven for 4 hours, checking on fluid levels after 2. At this point add simply-spiced sausage, and 6-8 pieces of duck confit. Allow to warm and meld for about an hour and fifteen minutes. I usually place the duck pieces somewhat on top so as to allow the skin to take a bit of colour.
This is the cassoulet we made last weekened, before we put it in the oven.